Growing up, I was an avid reader. Even on beautiful spring days when others were out biking and playing, I could be found indoors curled up with a great book. Like so many adolescents, however, my reading habits did decline somewhat dramatically once puberty struck. Instead, I was fixated on social relationships and boys, like so many other teen-aged girls. If one of my teachers were to present my classmates and me with an adolescent novel filled with intrigue, secrets, and romance, we would have been hooked, though. Trust me!
To all teachers out there reading, please don’t shy away from books such as the brand new debut novel by Jennifer R. Hubbard entitled The Secret Year. I found this book while perusing a fantastic website called Class of 2k10, which showcases “a group of the hottest debut authors of Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction.” This website is a fabulous resource for teens, parents, and teachers who may be seeking the latest, most enticing books for adolescents– even the most reluctant teen readers.
As soon as I began reading The Secret Year, I was hooked, and devoured the entire book in one afternoon. As I reflected on what I found most appealing about the book, I brainstormed the following attributes:
- Hubbard beautifully captures the distinct time of adolescence. It is unlike any other developmental period in our lives, and it is filled with a unique range of emotions attributed to growth and change.
- Much of the book’s content is influenced by the social class divisions that still prominently exist in our culture. Just when I thought, “Oh, no! Not another Romeo & Juliet,” I immediately realized that these castes never get old. Class divisions not only still thrive, but also still hurt us and shape us in life-changing ways. In this book, there is a “secret year” filled with the hidden romance of an affluent girl who falls for a boy from the “wrong side of town.”
- The Secret Year places a lot of emphasis on relationships, both platonic and romantic, and so do teens. There is no denying the essential role of relationships in humans’ lives, and this novel tenderly explores the complexities of a range of rather mature relationships.
- Journaling and letter writing have always been a vital escape and mode of expression for humans, especially adolescents. Much of The Secret Year revolves around the pages of a diary-like series of letters written to the secret boyfriend, Colt, by the deceased, secret girlfriend, Julia. Through the power of Julia’s writing, Colt is able to gradually mourn her sudden and unexpected loss.
- Hubbard does not shy away from a realistic portrayal of adolescent sexuality. Handled tastefully, sexuality is openly explored within the pages of The Secret Year. Teachers and parents– there is no need to blush, though. When adults consider the facts that most teens are sexually active, it makes sense that we provide them with respectable books that contain sexually active adolescent characters so that we may discuss the books honestly, and in ways that actually pertain to teens’ day to day lives and healthy growth.
- Although the bulk of the content of The Secret Year would typically appeal to female readers, I do think this book would also appeal to male readers, which is a rarity. There is one integral reason behind this statement– the book is written from the perspective of Colt, the main male character, which was an ingenious choice made by Hubbard.
- Speaking of Colt, this main character was easy to like, due to his loving nature and his fantastic sense of humor. For these reasons, among many, the book is an easy, enjoyable, quick read, which I am positive would delight many adolescent readers. For teachers, one of the best parts is that Hubbard provides an insightful Readers’ Guide to the book on her website, which would make an excellent conversation starter in classrooms across the country.
Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, all of us seem to enjoy the allure of secrets. So whether we are male or female, adolescent or adult, the intrigue of a range of secrets cannot be denied as a wonderful pathway into enjoying a book. For this reason alone, many readers will enjoy The Secret Year. Check out this book, as well as several other debut titles on the Class of 2k10 website, and entice tons of adolescent readers out there!